Saturday, January 23, 2010

Who is your driver?

Who is your driver?

You drive your own car? How about the vehicle called 'life'? Do you drive your own life too?

Everybody starts to drive their own life, at some point in time. That's the beginning of identification with 'I, Me and Mine'. I did this. I did that. OK, fine. When people think they are in the driving seat and enjoy some initial successes, it get's into their head and then soon after they have one massive proverbial crash. That's when they wonder if they were such a good driver as they thought. Some light bulb goes up in their head and realize that there is a better driver called God. So, very reluctantly they vacate driving seat and hand over the driving to God. But, they still want to be actively involved. So, they sit next to the driver and become navigator. Navigator for the life. What a joke?

Once in navigator's seat they do not sit quietly, they start interfering with God's driving. First and foremost sin is to second guess everything that the driver does. Giving him all bad advice. Disturbing him. Telling him this and that. God tolerates it for a while and then says either shut up or he would leave driving again. Now the navigator gets it. He knows how was his own life when he was driving it for himself. Although he has missed the excitement of driving for a while now, life seems better with God doing the driving.

The divine driver, God, needs some quiet time to carry us through some treacherous roads or when road conditions are really bad. He asks us to go to the back seat, pull up the blanket and get some sleep. He really does not want us to be involved much for that time being. These are exactly the years when nothing significant happens in life. Smart people understand that they are going through some not too-scenic-road. So, they heed to God's advice and take a nap in the back seat.

With enormous mercy, God drives us out of that bad patch of road and horrible traffic. He knew the sights would not be beautiful. So, he had asked us to take a nap. At some point, when the scenic route begins, God wakes us up and ask us to start enjoying the scenery while keeping our mouth shut and not interfering with his driving. That we must continue to do. What? Not to interfere with his divine driving. By asking us to enjoy the scenery, God is telling us that now it's safe to open up to life's experiences once again. Life is nothing but a series of experiences. So, enjoying the scenery is to opening to those experience when it's safe to do so.

Sooner we realize that we are better off not being our own drivers, better we will be. We have such a qualified and wonderful driver who is ever ready to drive us wherever we want to go. He knows the destination and wants to take us all there. Without realizing this higher purpose, we try to take charge of our own life. Whatever that means and screw it up so badly that God needs to have our lives towed, repaired and reconditioned before he can become our driver. In his limitless mercy, he does that too. He has to because he is responsible for seeing every soul reaches nirvana sooner or later. So, smart are those who stop driving themselves as early as possible and shift themselves to the backseat. Even in backseat, sit quietly and follow guidelines.

If we choose to drive our own lives, all we end up doing is to drive ourselves crazy.

Ford said -"I do not worry. I just do my job. I leave all worrying to God. That's His job."


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Saturday, January 09, 2010

My one and (hopefully) only one literally literary mistake

Once, back in 1998, I wanted to write short stories. I wrote one too. I think it ended up being a not-so-short story. I think I was on my 'literary-high' probably induced after reading some of the classics from RK Narayan. Anyway, below is that literary 'masterpiece'. One of a kind. I did not attempt any more such attempts at literary creativity after. Thank God for that :) I have discovered  saner ways to spend time now (i.e. read similar such attempts of others.)

Back in those days, (now famous) Vasudhendra used to publish articles from amateur writers on his simple home page. So, since I wanted to get some publicity, I had sent my story to him and he had dutifully posted it at - Today, for some reason, I realized that I did not have a copy of my masterpiece. So, I went looking for it. It's a miracle that it's still there where it is now after Geocities was closed a while back. Otherwise, world would have lost a literary jewel :)

It's funny how the following story developed in my mind. The heroine, Jalaja (not real name), is a very distant relative. She had created sensation within family circle by marrying a boy belonging to a totally different caste. Her family belonged to priest class (Bhats) and it had become big news. Then some of the humor(?) used was from our college days. It was only 3-4 years after leaving college and I used to still in touch with some my closest buddies and we used to relive that class humor back then. So, added all that and came up with final masala.

Read at your own risk.(Poor writing. Even poorer editing. Please excuse :))

Hanumantha Iyer Stories

Introduction of Hanumantha Iyer :

Hanumantha Iyer is a very good friend of mine. Our friendship dates back to 1993 when I was doing my PS-II in Delhi. Once, in the night, a person stopped in front of the house where I was staying with other PS-II students. He was asking for some information and I did not know what he was looking for. It was a hot summer night in Delhi and my friend Panda was roaming around on the terrace letting the sweat to evaporate by the south south breeze showing up very little now and then. I called down Panda to check out if he knew what this stranger was asking about. Panda was in ecstasy looking at the stranger and hugged him as though he was his twin brother separated at the birth. He went on and on tell about their childhood association in Madras and suddenly some where down the line Hanumantha Iyer's family vanished from Madras and Panda lost a dear friend. Hanumantha Iyer was in his mid twenties and looked very studious and very special. He had a special magnetic effect in his face which really made me to talk to him. Now he was no more a stranger and Panda got him into our apartment in South Delhi. Hanumantha Iyer casually talked to me also. Then onwards it was mainly Panda and HI(Hanumantha Iyer for short) who engaged in reviving their childhood memories and I was left to listen to their 'sambar' adventures of their past. Since I had not engaged in any such adventures, it made an interesting time pass for me too. So, I was not bored.

Panda went in to prepare coffee for Hanumantha Iyer and I happen to take a look again at Hanumantha. Hanumantha Iyer was reasonably a tall person may be 5-8 or 5-9. Some very obvious scars on his forehead running all along his temple. Panda later told that it was due to an injury Hanumantha suffered after having fallen from the tree. In fact, Hanumantha had gone up the tree to join the gang of monkeys there but they refused to accept him into their community and rest was a history. Another characteristic feature of Hanumantha was his trademark mustache. Just like the antennae of the cockroach. Just like a curvy road above the lips. Hanumantha was then already sporting a pot belly. May be due to excess intake of carbohydrates and starch. He was wearing a tight dress slacks which he probably had got stitched when his waistline was at least 3 inches shorter. The slack was crying under the weight of his (m)ass. Over all he seemed to me, a funny guy. He had a very heavy accent like any other individual of his clan.

Later after the sumptuous dinner at a 'Sardar Dhaba', Hanumantha was back again at our apartment. Teasing and making fun of Panda and Panda paying him back in a similar way. It did not seem to me that Hanumantha had any plans of going anywhere else for that night. Any way, it was not a pain for any one of us to accommodate an extra human being.

Marriage of Hanumantha Iyer's niece :

Hanumantha Iyer apparently had an elder brother called Harguppa Iyer. Even today I have not been able to decipher that name 'Harguppa'. I had only heard about 'Gersoppa', 'Talguppa', 'Katriguppe', 'Kavaladaguppe' etc. But, what is this Harguppa ? Was that the brother of Lord Hanumantha ? It did not seem so. I asked Hanumantha about the same and he put a blank look. I asked him to check the meaning with his brother when he called his brother next time. Hanumantha, hearing this, put still more sadder look. He told us that his brother beloved Harguppa had passed away and he started telling about his niece's marriage after the death of his brother.

Hanumantha Iyer has a niece named Jalaja or something. I was still scratching my head over 'Harguppa' and I did not bother to listen to his niece's name that carefully. Harguppa Iyer passed away when Jalaja was just 18. Jalaja was staying with her mom in Trichy or Tiruchirapalli. They were pulling on the pension and other benefits of her dad. Jalaja was a kind of a dumb girl. Not that she was genetically dumb but too conservative environment in the home had neutered her thinking faculty altogether. She was totally different from other members of her own species (girls). She did not seem to have any interest in boys, fashion, dress etc. Always she was seen sporting a 'Parachute' (half sari) dress with a faded blouse. Although dumb, uninterested in fashion , youth had taken a toll on her too as it takes on anybody else. She looked as though she inherited the beauty from her mother. God was kind enough to have made her looks go in her mother's way rather than her dad's or uncle's way. Otherwise I would have had to imagine a female counterpart of Hanumantha narrating this story right in front of me. Okay, as the youth took a toll on her too and she became the center of attraction to all 'padde' (vela, hopeless) guys in the neighborhood. Although she tried to remain very neutral and unconcerned about all that, it was getting impossible with the amount of attention being showered on her. But, still her conservative family background did not let her do any unthinkable acts of immorality. She was incidentally studying for her BA in a local college.

Her mom (alias Hanumantha's Sister-In-Law) was getting concerned about the unnecessary attention her daughter was getting in the neighborhood and feared that there exists a non zero probability that something unthinkable, irreversible and inevitable could happen. Very true motherly feeling. So, she started bothering our Hanumantha about getting his niece married. They were conservative TAMBRAMS (TAMil BRAhMins). Like any other brahmins Jalaja's mom was concerned about her daughter getting married to some out of the caste guy from the near by fisherman village and whole of her 'khandan' getting thrown out of the neighborhood with out any access even to a 'chombu' (toilet bucket) of water. Of course, 'chombu' of water meant more than a 'glass' of water to Jal's mom!!.

Hanumantha was a vela guy then (like me and you for now). He neither had a job and was not also studying. He used to wear his Bata chappals out walking the streets of Trichy. He had equally good number of vela friends also. All that they were engaged in was the perpetual cycle of drinking tea and chewing 'Manikchand'.

Hanumantha was just a couple of years elder to his niece. Not surprising in those days when dads used to impregnate their wives even after their eldest son had become a grand dad himself. Probably Hanumantha was one of those cases. To Hanumantha's luck his brother, a government employee, had left all their ancestral assets to Hanumantha and was living on his modest government income which was more than sufficient for their family of three. So, Hanumantha could continue to roam around vela in his town and have a good time too.

Hanumantha did not bother much when his SIL (Sister-In-Law) told him about marrying off his niece Jalaja. That was a Christmas day and most of the tea shops in the vicinity were closed as it was a Christian dominated area. Hanumantha was, as usual, on his vela routine and felt like having some 'Manikchand'. But, 'Manikchand' never tasted its best without a cup of sweet tea. So, in order to maximize the this eternal pleasure Hanumantha desperately needed a cup of tea or for that matter a 'chombu' of sugar water. He tried to check out a couple of tea stalls. But, no use. So, only option was to land up at his SIL's house and order a up of tea. He did not mind doing that but he used to avoid it as his SIL used to bother him with all vela work like getting her blouse from tailor Bhimoji and Bhimoji talking all funny stuff about Jalaja etc. So, Hanumantha used to avoid all that. But, today Lord Manikchand(Gutka- Supari and Tobacco mixture) had ordered for tea and Hanumantha showed up at his brother's house.

Puttanagammal was there doing the household chores. I asked Hanumantha who was that Puttanagammal. Hanumantha apologized for not having told his SIL's name. Puttanagammal was his SIL's name. I started wondering if somebody in his family had vowede to keep funny names. Hanumantha, Harguppa, Puttanagammal all seem to support my theory. May be realizing my line of thinking Panda reminded me of my own name 'Girgitti Gende'. Certainly nothing can be more peculiar than this. At least one or more instances of Hanumantha, Harguppa, Puttanagammal etc. exist. But, 'Girgitti Gende' seemed to be an uni-object creatable class. My line of thought was disrupted when Hanumantha again mentioned about Jalaja. My theory was dismissed right out there by 'reductio and absurdum'. Jalaja was a rare name in his family of strange names. My mind was not able to accept the proof of this 'reductio and absurdum' as easily as it accepted proof for square root of two being an irrational number, the first reductio and absurdum proof I was ever taught. The sole reason being I had no confirmation that her name was Jalaja but not anything else. There was a good chance that I would have misheard 'Jellikallu' for Jalaja. Anyway, I had no way to have Hanumantha return back to ground zero and start all over again.

I had to stop in Hanumantha some where down the line to repeat what he had told after I had gone into my 'reductio and absurdum' proving, postulating etc. Hanumantha looked little irritated. But, burst into wide grin and asked where was he when I went out of the track. I told - he landed up at his SIL's place at the behest of Lord Manikchand. Hanumantha entered the house as though he was familiar with every nook and corner. Of course, he ought to be, right ? Puttanagammal did not care much at his entry. Who knows what was up her mind bugging her ? Thinking like a MCP (Male Chauvinistic Pig) he thought it was usual mood swings due to PMS. But, that was not to be the case. PT Nags (short for Puttanagammal) was pissed off that he was not taking seriously about her idea of getting her daughter Jal married off. This time PT Nags used all her authority her late husband Harguppa had left behind as his legacy and used to convince Hanumantha that before the that year's 'Bakrid' her daughter's marriage should be all set and done. How come PT Nags, being a devout TAMBRAM, ever think of setting 'Bakrid' as her reference of time frame when many other Hindu festivals are precisely used for that purpose ? When I asked about this, Hanumantha told that it was another story in its own right and said that he would narrate it some other time and he did it .

Hanumantha realized that the situation had become grave and PT Nags was all bent on getting her Jal to the elite club of 'Suhagans' (married women). Once Hanumantha felt that his SIL was ignoring him although he was a couple of years elder to Jal. But, later he admitted that it did not strike to him then that marriage ages are defined differently for fairer and darker sexes differently for different reasons. Any way, Hanumantha was not in a hurry to join the elite club of married 'Uncle' club. Lord Manikchand was ordering for a quick cup of tea. Shamelessly, Hanumantha asked his SIL for a cup of tea. Hanumantha defends that it was not shameless request as there is no place for shame within families. Panda and myself could not be more agreeing. Just then, Jalaja, made her entry into the house. She was returning from the college. Hanumantha was puzzled at the fact that she was saying that she was coming from the college then. He reminded her about that day being Christmas. PT Nags tapped on her forehead a couple of times giving an impression that she seriously believed in tapping the forehead and making the brain to tick and avoid her believing in her daughter telling her such lame excuses. She was a true mother in full spirits. She took Jalaja to task and asked her file FIR (First hand Information Report) about her going to college on a Christmas day. Jalaja had to give a very lengthy explanation to satisfy this interrogating motherly cop. She had to start from Mandal riots that year, subsequent bundhs, couple of suicide cases in the college and she and all her friends missing several of their periods and they talking to their professors about the uncovered chapters and missing periods and professors asking them to come for special classes after all their periods were over etc. etc. Logic started slowly permeating into PT Nags and her face started loosing its stiffness. Situation was returning to normalcy.

Hanumantha stared at his niece Jalaja and took a good look at her. This was probably the first of such looks he ever took in recent years. Hanumantha and Jalaja had grown up together as Hanumantha was just 4 years elder to her. As both of them grew up, they maintained a healthy distance so that PT Nags could rest well and the neighborhood lock their mouths. Moreover as they grew up Jalaja grew more feminine and Hanumantha more masculine. I was amazed at the fact that Hanumantha was taking special pains to make it a point to note their different growths. I could not help but pity. But my mind told that he had all those friends who needed obvious explanations like girls grow in a feminine way and boys in a masculine way and some of course always a borderline case. But, Panda frowned at his over stating the obvious facts.

Hanumantha was feeling dry in the mouth. I had to fetch him a glass of water. I did it whole heatedly as I was immensely enjoying his narration. Hanumantha gulped the water, thanked me and cleared his throat. clearing of his throat reminded me of 'Sardar' taxi drivers in the taxi stand trying start their taxis in a cold winter morning.

Hanumantha picked up the story line where exactly he had left. Hanumantha took cool look at his niece Jalaja. Jalaja was a natural beauty. Wheatish complexion bordering on being fair. Thick jet black hair flowing down kissing her reasonably well maintained rear end despite their high carbohydrate intake. The hair was tightly woven in two lanes as though one each for louse moving in one direction. There was a generous application of coconut oil to preserve the hair the way it was. Due to the fact that Jal had walked a couple of miles in the hot scorching tropical sun, the oil had made its presence felt on her forehead and as well on her eyebrows giving an impression that it was proudly proclaiming the fact that it was doing it lubrication business well. There was dim black line of female mustache over her lips like a sleuth guarding her beauty against all the evil eyes in the neighborhood. Hanumantha felt his mustache was of her size a couple of years ago. Jals more forward friends always used to tell her to get herself waxed and get rid of her unwanted hair on the face and else where. But, PT Nags was in no mood let Jal over run her bastion built on traditional beliefs and superstitions. She had flatly rejected Jal's aunt's suggestion to cut Jal's hair short to make he look mod saying that cutting a woman's hair short would reduce life expectancy of their husbands and that is the reason why Brahmin widows shave their heads off after the death of their husbands. She, in effect, meant that she did not intend to make her daughter a premature half or quarter widow. With this mentality of PT Nags there was no way that Jal could ever dream of making her trip to beauty saloon. More over since she had been raised in such way that she was immune to all this materialistic concepts of beauty. She was raised on the lines of legendary Meera Bai whose inner beauty which ultimately mattered. Jal was, as usual, dressed in an inexpensive half sari made from one of her mom's old sari and preferred this 'Parachute' to any other dress as means to cover her less than perfect figure. Some of her friends used to joke that only thing left out was a veil to cover her face. Hanumantha's cursory glance was that of an uncle looking at his niece after long time and bewildering about nature's skills in transforming a milk cheeked girl into confused adolescent. This aerial survey was sufficient for Hanumantha Iyer to convince himself that his niece had to be married off and being old fashioned he believed that letting girls to cross 22 would be disastrous. As such he had to cross many hurdles like horoscopes, dowry and pleasing boy's side at the time of marriage.

He was about tell PT Nags about he agreeing to her suggestion of Jal's marriage and chalking out a plan of action. Right then, Mr. Balu Bullangar, their family priest made an entry into the scene. Actually, Balu Bullangar's real name is Chinnakoodulu Balasubramanian Iyengar. Right from his early days he had a nasty habit of saying 'BULLA, BULLA' to any unappealing ideas from others. You tell him that it is going to rain today and he would disagree with you saying 'BULLA, BULLA'.

People changed his name permanently to Bullangar when he told 'BULLA BULLA' to a person who was about break him a news that he had won Rs.501 in a lottery. It seems he had picked up this 'BULLA BULLA' terminology from one of his much younger relative who was studying his engineering in north in a supposedly reputed institute. After this re-christening ceremony of Iyengar to Bullangar, the priest was sweetly and shortly known as Balu Bullangar. Some Brahmin haters even used to tease calling him plain and vanilla 'BULLA'.

BULLA used to visit PT Nags once a while to perform some rituals as Harguppa had died and there was no male in the family to perform them. Hanumantha wondered why BULLA was there on a Christmas day. He even wondered if he got converted. But, looking at BULLA and his very brahminical attire, he brushed aside his idea as stupid. BULLA was there that day to help out PT Nags with her daughter's marriage. He was a sort of marriage agent too in a broader sense. As he came to PT Nags house, he even used to go to other families in Trichy and even to near by places like Lalgudi, Vandur etc. when there was shortage of priests. He used to spot eligible prospective grooms and brides and used to act like a communication channel. He was kind of a uni-layered network model defying the seven layer network model. As he was only transferring the trivial data it was sufficient have an outdated technology. Meeting of BULLA and Hanumantha at PT Nag's house was a sheer coincidence.

Hanumantha Iyer exchanged pleasantries with BULLA and even fell at his feet. It is a custom among brahmins to fall at the feet of a priest to seek his blessing. PT Nags being a widow refrained from doing that but ordered Jal to do the same. Jal prostrated before the priest maintaining safe distance (min. 3 feet) prescribed by family doctrine and using a different posture of first touching the knees on the ground in a erect upright position and then slowly bending her upper torso to the ground. Priest BULLA blessed all those who fell at his feet with traditional 'Dheergh Ayushmann Bhava' and ' Dheergh Sumnagali Bhava' meaning may you live longer and may you be married for longer respectively. Meanwhile PT Nags was there ready with a glass of piping hot BRU coffee. BULLA thankfully accepted the same and asked, by the force of habit, if it was a filter coffee. With the same force of habit PT Nags denied and it was their routine every time BULLA landed up at their dwelling. Hanumantha also got coffee instead of tea. Any way Lord Manikchand is flexible on beverages and it did not matter.

Incidentally, PT Nags had asked BULLA to look out for a good, decent groom from a family comparable to their family in all ways. She even had given her budget of marriage, dowry etc., etc. and BULLA had recorded in his PWNRM (Permanent Write Never Read Memory). BULLA had scanned through some grooms and had come up with 4 prospective grooms for the consideration of PT Nags. He briefly and succinctly explained about the grooms and made sure that each of their positive points are properly recorded in PT Nags NEWM(Not Easily Writable Memory). When Hanumantha was telling this I started thinking about CD-ROM writers coming into vogue. He also showed their photographs. PT Nags took one at a time and after seeing each one of them she handed them over to Hanumantha.

By now Hanumantha was equally active into the whole proceedings. One prospective groom caught his attention. BULLA sensing his interest started playing his pre-recorded cassette detailing the guy in question. Hanumantha was enlightened that the boy was a Customs Inspector at Nugabakkam airport at Madras with monthly salary of Rs. 5000 and BULLA burst into a wide grin exposing all 32 paan stained teeth saying being Customs Inspector he also made reasonable upper income (Oopar Ki Kamayi). Boy looked handsome in spotless, immaculate, crisp white Customs uniform. Hanumantha flipped the photo to take a look at the possible physical details of the boy which are normally written on the back. He was not disappointed - all physical details were mentioned there. Boy's age was 27, height 5-10. At this time I felt like asking Hanumantha if he ever bothered to check his weight. Then realized that normally weight is very flexible and can not be recorded as accurately as height. More over we believe in BIGGER THE BETTER theory and it was unnecessary for boy, girl or anybody to know the weight. So, I let Hanumantha to continue the story.

By then BULLA was getting cock sure that he could clinch the deal if he hit the iron when it was hot. He started accessing his cache and churn out BLOBs of information about the boy as though PT Nags had executed a drill down query on a VLDB (Very Large Data Base). I was appreciating God for making BULLA such a master retriever of data and was becoming sure that God had indexed BULLA very efficiently. BULLA emptied his cache and looked at PT Nags if she ever wanted to drill down more and gave look that his engine was ready to execute any complicated query on the VLDB of the Customs Officer. PT Nags instead looked at Hanumantha for a cross tab report about the query. Hanumantha gave bleak look as though his lower end RDBMS had either crashed or working its way through the unindexed raw data. PT Nags decided not bother him feeling that Hanumantha's dBase could never match BULLA's Oracle.

PT Nags continued talking to BULLA exploring the possibility of arranging for face to face interview with the guy and his family. BULLA had to hide with his great difficulty his sense of jubilation. BULLA finally got up saying that grooms parent stay in near by Lalgudi and he would talk to them very soon and touch base with Hanumantha about the developments. He chose Hanumantha to touch base as he used to be more often seen than PT Nags or her daughter. He took all the brochures he gave to PT Nags and made his way out.

Although Hanumantha was thinking about Jal's future marriage he remembered Jal's rather suspicious behavior at the time of filing her FIR for having gone to college on a holiday. Lord Manikchand was insisting that he be revered and consumed. Hanumantha not wanting to put Manikchand in front of PT Nags got up to make his way out. It is not that Hanumantha was too respectful of PT Nags not to put Manikchand in front of her, but feared that she may ask him to give her some. With Manikchand costing Rs.4 a pouch he did not want to risk it. So, he bid good bye to PT Nags and looked for Jalaja. Jalaja came out of her room to bid good bye to her uncle. She looked totally insulated from all the things that happened when BULLA was there.

It was around four in the afternoon when Hanumantha got out of his SIL's house. There was still time for his usual evening conference at Nehru Park culvert with his vela buddies. With his teeth grinding Manikchand and essence of Manikchand working on his nerves stimulating his apparently never used brain and making it hyper- active, Hanumantha started extrapolating on the suspicion that started in his mind at the time of Jal filing her FIR. His brain started processing multi-dimensional data in a OLAP (OnLine Analytical Processing) overloading his data warehouse. First of the information hyper cube pointed out that Hanumantha should first check Jal's daily routine. Panda burst into wild, demonic laughter imagining Hanumantha checking out Jal's daily routine. Hanumantha looked upset and clarified what he intended. But, Panda continued smiling. Looking at my half mouth open and very attentive posture, Hanumantha ignored Panda's nuisance and continued the story.

Once Hanumantha even thought about discussing the issue with his vela friends. But, refrained from it as he knew that they all did not consider Jal as their daughter as Hanumantha considered. Not wanting to lose 'bitti' (Free) teas and Manikchand that Hanumantha used to get them, all of them, in front of Hanumantha, used to refrain from talking about Jalaja but she monopolized their fantasies. That day's vela conference was a regular one at the Nehru Park and ended at around 7 PM and Hanumantha made his way to his abode.

Hanumantha used to stay alone as his parents passed away in car crash after his family vanished from Madras abandoning Panda. Panda was rather sad listening to this and nostalgically remembered notorious 'SAMBAR' that Hanumantha's mom used to prepare and moistened his lips remembering the days when he used to trip on that 'SAMBAR'. Panda started cursing 'SARDAR DHABA''s predominantly ROTI, NAAN etc. I had to cool him down saying that PS-II was coming to an end and he could as well go to Trichy to get comparable SAMBAR from PT Nags if he wanted. Panda asked me to shut up and I obliged. Hanumantha came home and was feeling hungry. He was not in a mood to cook anything. Some old rice on the verge of stinking was present in his refrigerator. Hanumantha put some water in it. I still do not understand this practice although I have seen many people doing that. He took some PUDIS (powders) and mixed them in various quantities with the rice like a pharmacist carefully preparing a concoction. He stirred the mixture with a magic wand for some time and baptized the preparation to be SAMBAR RICE and happily consumed it even before he remembered to change his dress. Then he thought of changing into a more comfortable dress and there was not much option than slipping into one and only one LUNGI lying on the cord running all along the bathroom like the Golden Gate Bridge. Although it was not amusing he laughed at his own joke and continued telling the story.

Once he slipped into to LUNGI everything in and out felt more better and ventilated. He kicked his legs in the air couple of times to stop his two thighs rubbing against each other. He was not bothered that his thighs were rubbing against each other but was very much concerned that the friction out of that would be enough to generate the heat and fire. At this Panda burst into laughter and being his good buddy I exactly knew what was on his mind. Panda jokingly told Hanumantha Iyer that he did not have to worry for that as fire would only light his cigar so that some body can smoke it. Hanumantha brushed it aside saying it was very unwelcome from Panda. I just couldn't stop from appreciating Panda's impromptu sense of humor.

That night was uneventful for Hanumantha. Next morning when Hanumantha was skimming through HINDU while in toilet a wonderful idea struck him. I told to myself that all wonderful ideas always strike in the toilets. That is why brilliant people go more often to toilet than any other place. Therefore the brilliance of idea is directly proportional to the amount of effort put in getting it out!! No easy work around absolutely. Okay, the wonderful idea that Hanumantha Iyer got was to launch a reconnaissance mission on his niece Jalaja. I was wondering if he ever intended to use any B-52 stealth bomber for that. He equally jokingly told that he would check out with President Clinton.

Hanumantha knew that his niece starts from the college around 6 in the evening after finishing her extra periods to compensate the periods they had missed due to Mandal strike etc. Hanumantha thought that he would be there at the college by 5.30 and wait behind arch of bushes on her way. The whole way till the gate of the college was covered by bushy arch with exits every 10-15 feet leading to the garden. As usual Jalaja started out at 5.45 and Hanumantha noticed that she started waiting for somebody telling all her friends to proceed. This looked very strange to Hanumantha. It took around 15 minutes for all the students to vacate the premises. There were hardly any boys for the special classes. They probably never thought that missed periods. Only girls, being careful about academics, thought that they had missed their periods and were attending the special classes from their teachers.

Hanumantha was eagerly watching Jalaja's next move. Then from some where emerged a very dark male. He was about 5-7 and was overweight beyond any limits. He wore a red open neck T-shirt and a stone washed jeans. Even at the sunset he was sporting a cheap pair of sun glasses. May be to put vibes. He sported a long mop of hair at the back and his face was surprisingly neat. Hanumantha wondered how could a guy have such a nice face and a screwy body. Hanumantha was aghast to notice the joy he brought into the face of his niece. She looked really thrilled and it was very special and Hanumantha had never seen her being so happily thrilled. She looked like a real woman now. She gave an impression that womanhood was never complete without a man, however the man may be. Dark Stud put is hand around her not-so-small waist and they took one of the first exits out of the arch and entered the garden. First Jalaja sat down and Dark stud just got down and put his head on her lap. Jalaja started fingering him. Hanumantha stopped for a moment watching for naughty expressions on our faces. Yes, they were very much there. Then Hanumantha told very explicitly that she started sliding her fingers in his hair on the head, in order to avoid any potential misunderstanding. To Hanumantha's surprise Jalaja told everything that transpired in their house the day before. It was like a batch program running on a IBM 3270. Very fast, very accurate. Hearing all this the dark stud got up and concern was evident on his face. He was fearing some grave consequences. Hanumantha was very surprised but also felt high appreciation for Jalaja's data collection abilities. She looked no less compared to any SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) device. Dark Stud told her something that only two of them understood creating a phenomenon of OHT (Over Head Transmission) with Hanumantha Iyer. Dark stud kissed her on the cheek and told her good bye. He did not forget to tell her to go carefully to the house. He went in the same direction from where he had come and Jal, obviously very thrilled by the kiss, started walking with the books clasped to her chest.

Hanumantha Iyer was furious. His was a class one TAMBRAM family. All TAMBRAMS in around used to look up to them as an ISI standard for Brahmins. Hanumantha thought if this Jalaja continued her affair like that then very soon their family's status of ISI standard would be tossed out like old European system of measure. He vowed that he would stop that and if possible introduce ISO 9000 certification for Jalaja's chastity. He just called her name and Jalaja became standstill as the bikini clad heroine in Ramsey movies become standstill at the sight of the funny ghost in a 'Purana Mahal' (Old Castle). Hanumantha now looked like Raza Murad to her and she hoped that her dark stud would come from somewhere to her rescue. Hanumantha took her to task and she burst into tears. She started her story. I felt now that Hanumantha's story was in a recursive mode with Jalaja's story inside Hanumantha's story. Panda's stack looked like it was full with sleep and would overflow if this recursive procedure ever entered it. But, Panda suddenly got very interested and chopped off sleep from his stack and was ready to take on the recursive procedure. Panda allocated memory required to hold Jalaja's story on the stack. My stack being dynamic , I did not have to worry.

Jalaja told the name of the dark stud was Annamalai ChokkaLingam. He was also a vela guy like Hanumantha. Hanumantha had a shock of his life when Jalaja told him that he belonged to the fisherman community. The worst what PT Nags had dreamt was about to unveil. Jalaja told that she has been loving her dearest AChokks (his nickname) for last 3 years. She also admitted that even the day before she was here romancing with AChokks. She told that she had decided to marry AChokks and was cock sure about her decision. Jalaja told that AChokks was also cock sure about the same. Hanumantha, in a fit of rage, forgot modesty and asked Jalaja at the top his voice what AChokks was sure about- his cock or about marrying her. Jalaja was a tube light to make sense of it and looked very scared. Hanumantha' s roar echoed for several times before it disappeared with the complete dissipation of the sound energy. Hanumantha used several tactics to convince about the problems in a inter caste marriage and she did not budge even an inch from her decision.

Both of them returned together to PT Nags house. PT Nags was out to attend some music recital at near by 'Rayar Matha'. Hanumantha thought he should wait till his SIL came. Within no time PT Nags was in and was surprised at the appearance of Hanumantha again. Hanumantha did not waste any time to explain the 'RASLEELA' of his niece. PT Nags was dumb struck. She kept her mouth wide open for 10 minutes breaking her own previous record of 8.675 minutes. She had achieved the previous record a couple of years ago when her husband Harguppa died. PT Nags had a nervous breakdown and started sobbing while blaming her luck and daughter at the regular alternate interval. She finally asked Jalaja how was she going to cope up with non vegetarian AChokks and his family. Jalaja innocently told that AChokks has been feeding her with all sorts of non veg. for the past 6 months so that she got used to their food. PT Nags was furious when she heard this. This was like pouring hot molten lead into her ears. She started chanting some of the hymns she had known from child hood. She started slapping her own cheeks in way of asking God for pardon.

Somebody was at the door. First it looked like a couple of people but when Hanumantha came out whole colony of fishermen had gathered in front of PT Nags house. Most of them were drunk after a hard day's labor. They were making it really look like a fish market. AChokks came forward with a man who looked like his father. They had come prepared for the engagement. Although they did not know the exact details of the formalities involved. AChokks father came in front of PT Nags and in all respect requested for her daughter's hand in marriage to his son AChokks. He boasted that he has 3 long distance trawlers and would make at least one and a half trawler in the name of Jalaja if ever PT Nags doubted AChokks' commitment to marriage. They looked they had come all set. AChokks was so concerned that he had arranged whole of his fraternity in no time. All he had to do was to get them each a bottle of toddy.

Hanumantha and PT Nags were crest fallen. They looked at Jalaja for any last minute schedule changes. But, she looked as resolute as she was ever before. She was already thinking of the honeymoon in AChokks trawler some where in the middle of the high seas. AChokks father told that they would like to have the marriage very next day at their deity's temple in their colony. He waited for some time for PT Nag's response and told his folks that bilateral talks have failed and a decision had been reached unilaterally and unanimously. Fisherman folks jumped in the air as mark of victory without forgetting to fold their LUNGIs way up above the waist. Hanumantha was thrilled to find a rainbow casted by their colorful underwears even in the dark. In no time they had disappeared.

Thus everything was over as though it was a dream. Next morning as decided AChokks landed up at Jalaja's house exactly at 8 AM. Jalaja was on her toes to join him. PT Nags knew very well that doing anything against her wish would be disastrous. She voluntarily sent her daughter with some ornaments she had got prepared well in advance for her marriage. Jal was happy to find a change in her mom's attitude and made her way out with immaculately dressed AChokks.

They got married according to the customs of AChokks community. Jalaja was first made to bathe in strange looking liquid as Bo Derek in movie Tarzan The Ape Man. She had to wear only saree in without a blouse. Some washermen who had come marriage compared her bare back to a granite washing stone and AChokks was in the sky at their appreciation.

Later in the night they had all set out for their honeymoon. By then Hanumantha also had change of heart and had arranged for their first night in a decent hotel. He thought if Jalaja went out on the trawler for the honeymoon she would throw up due to sea sickness and AChokks might mistake it for something else and here marital flower getting nipped off right in the bud. Hotel management had specially prepared the honeymoon suite. Hanumantha suddenly developed unimaginable amount of concern for his niece. Hotel gave him a complimentary room next to the honeymoon suite so that PT Nags could stay there over night helping her daughter cross the first night hurdle with time tested tips and tricks. But, PT Nags bowing to the tradition refrained from coming over to that place and Hanumantha himself decided to stick around in the complimentary room.

At around 10 PM AChokks came with his bride to the hotel. Hotel staff gave them a historic welcome as they had accomplished a historic deed. AChokks was the first fisherman to acquire a Brahmin bride. AChokks dad was seen telling the hotel manager that blood of his community was purified. Hanumantha Iyer saw the couple into the honeymoon suite and returned to his own room.

After some time, Jalaja came out of the room yelling 'PAMB !!!!PAMB !!!!'. I did not quite understand what that meant. I was about to ask him and Panda told me 'PAMB' meant snake in Tamil. Hanumantha was just getting to his first phase of the sleep and was awakened by this yell. Came behind Jalaja was AChokks in his assorted colored underwear. Jalaja was very tense and nervous. She was trying to say something but was totally incoherent. In a hurry to come out of the room after having seen the snake she had just wrapped her bridal sari so as just to cover herself up. AChokks was asking repeatedly where did she see the snake. She was going into deep trance and started doing all vague gestures. The security Chief of the hotel was summoned and he in turn summoned some snake charmers. They came with their 'pungis' (beens, musical instrument they carry) and played it everywhere in the room till their asses dropped dead. There was no snake in the room they announced and left. Jalaja was still hysterical, yelling 'PAMB' 'PAMB' every now and then.

Nobody could understand what actually happened. Their first night was gone. Jalaja never came out of hysteria. Still she yells 'SNAKE' SNAKE' and has lost her senses. PT Nags is totally in shambles and Hanumantha is taking care of her. He wants to cure Jalaja's madness and her fear about the snakes. Jalaja is currently in a mental asylum in Bangalore. The neurologist suggested that he could try finding out advanced therapies that could be available in AIMS Delhi. Hanumantha is in Delhi looking for a remedy for Jalaja's snake phobia which started on her first night. AChokks was devastated with out any marital happiness. PT Nags gave him an ultimatum that if he ever abandoned Jalaja, their entire community will cursed by great great Brahmin sages like Durvasas, Vishwamitra etc. etc. for ages to come. AChokks dad was scared to death about it and has warned his son to remain celibate till Jalaja gets okay. AChokks is pissed off with the fact that as soon as he nears her she starts yelling 'PAMB' 'PAMB'.

Now we understood why Hanumantha Iyer was in Delhi and what he was asking me at the gate. I agreed to show him AIMS next day. All of us retired to bed thinking about the snake that apparently scared Jalaja and made her crazy. None of us really got no where. In the night, in my dreams, I too saw a lot of ant hills but no snakes. Next day, Panda said I was screaming 'ANT HILL' 'ANT HILL' in my sleep a couple of times. I honestly remembered nothing. But, I believed Panda. Panda suggested that I too should get a check up for this Ant Hill phobia at AIMS when I go with Hanumantha Iyer there. I was in total disbelief about Jalaja dreaming snakes and I dreaming ant hills where snakes normally enter for shelter. I called up my dad immediately narrating my vague dreams. Dad asked if I saw any snake in the dream and I say no. Dad hung up saying if I ever saw a snake in my dreams I should immediately let him know and he would perform a special 'pooja' at Kokke Subramanya temple. The God there suppose to rule all snakes.

I saw Panda leaving for office muttering something. It sounded like - "Till the snake entered the ant hill there is no cure for this illness".

Neither Hanumantha Iyer nor I quite understood it. Do you ?

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire

Who can forget the clan/tribe related genocide that took place in Rwanda in Africa in early 1990s? As the world simply watched, close to 800,000 people mainly belonging to Tutsi tribe were systematically massacred by other ethnic group - Hutus. What a mindless carnage! 800,000 in 100 days.

This is the book by the man who watched it unfold from beginning to end. The author was the head of the UN peace keeping force sent to Rwanda. As peace keepers, they had no ability or rights to create the peace. Since there was no peace at all, there was no question of keeping it anyway. So, while the world shied away from Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire and his few men had to watch the slaughter as it unfolded.

The author, assisted by another writer, goes on in a very journal-type style without any rhetoric or unnecessary melodrama. It is like - been there, seen that -kind of style.

It was a colossal failure from rest of the world not to have done anything to prevent that genocide.UN, being what it is, could not and did not do much. Despite some good intentions, things take a way too long time to process through UN red tape. Powerful nations did not want to intervene on their own. Multiple reasons for that. US had just retreated from Somalia after the disaster in which a few US soldiers were killed and their dead bodies were dragged on the streets of Mogadishu. After such a media and military fiasco, US did not wish to participate in what they probably termed as a no-win situation. Former colonial powers like Belgium and France did not want to get involved as there was nothing left to loot. They had done all that before they gave independence to Rwanda - one of the poorest countries. So, without any strategic interest or value to anybody, it was no wonder everybody looked other way while people surpassed all decency and killed each other worse than anyone would kill even little insects. The kind of violence and barbarism deployed is not believable if somebody else, other than Dallaire, were to tell the story.

This book is a great read for anyone interested in the subject. Of course, this is a book to read for fun while lazing on the beach. This book will force you to pray for all those souls.

There is a nice documentary also which tracks Dallaire when visits Rwanda after 10 years. Good movie. More details here. (

Another great book related to this is - Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza.

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Friday, January 01, 2010


An elephant is going from, say, San Francisco to Los Angels. Traveling south. There are several ants and other similar small creatures on that mammoth elephant. For those tiny insects, size of this elephant is not comprehendible. It's like anything more than they have seen in their life. As a result, these insects do not know in which direction the elephant is going, let alone where the elephant is headed to. Those insects move on the body of that elephant as though they know where they are going and how to get there. Guess what? Where they all will end up in? Los Angeles, Right? Since the elephant is headed to LA, regardless of what these tiny insects do, they will all reach LA. Some insects may move from the head of the elephant to the rear of the elephant by the time the elephant makes it to LA. They may have thought they were going in the direction of San Francisco. But, since they were moving on an elephant which was headed to LA, they all end up in LA too.

So what? Evolution is like that. If we subscribe to the hypothesis that we are all spiritual beings undergoing a human life (vs. human beings trying for spiritual experiences), we can easily understand the profundity of this elephant analogy. We are all like those tiny insects on the elephant. Some divine force is making that elephant go in the right direction. To the ultimate destination where the individual soul unites with the God. So, regardless of what we as tiny creatures do, we all end up in the final destination one way or the other. Sooner or later.

What can we do to hasten this process, if it is something we want to? Smart ants on the back of the elephant align their motion to the motion of the elephant. Say that there are some ants on the far end of our mythological elephant. They have been blessed and made aware of this evolution. They are in a hurry to get to the destination as quickly as possible. So, instead of wasting their time and energy on going here and there on that massive elephant's back, they proceed to the front end of the elephant with single minded devotion and determination. They will encounter tremendous challenges on the way. They will all face many distractions on the way. They will meet many of their fellow creatures who are wasting their time and energy on frivolous material pursuits. But, these enlightened ants are so determined that when the elephant reaches LA, they want to be at the end of its trunk so that they can do one jump and be at the final destination. Unity at last!

This is exactly what we as spiritual beings can do to hasten our own evolution. Like it or not, we are all being lead to higher levels of consciousness by God every moment. His elephant is going to LA. Like it or not, we will all go to his kingdom. But, it's up to us as where we want to be when His elephant stops at the final destination. Do we want to be like those enlightened ants which moved doggedly from the far end of the elephant all the way to the very front to the tip of its trunk so that they can just hop on Nirvana? Or do we want to be like other ants which pursued meaningless activities all along the journey and when the elephant reached LA, they were on at some remote corner on that elephant's body. Bear in mind that our elephant is very big and for a small creatures like ant being on far end of the elephant may mean a couple of life time's struggle to get to the front and reach Nirvana. So, we do not want to be somewhere remote due to mindless pursuits in our multiple lives to end up like those ants who have to spend few more life times to get to their real destination.

Original elephant analogy, I heard in discourse by Sri Bannanje Govindacharya of Udupi, Karnataka, India. Sri Bannanje is a very learned authority of Indian scriptures. He used this analogy so beautifully that 2 minutes he spent talking about gave me probably 20 years worth of insights. In his case, the elephant I think went from Udupi to Manipal :)

You can listen to many of his discourses at -


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Happy new year -2010

Best wishes for the new year 2010 and beyond.

Hope things went well in the last year. Anyway, it's all past now. Welcome the new year with best hopes and wishes.

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." - Oprah Winfrey

"An optimist stays up to see the New Year in. A pessimist waits to make sure the old one leaves." - Bill Vaughan

Once again, wishing all friends a very happy new year 2010.


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